Increase in young sex offender numbers - One in Four
THERE has been a marked increase in young sex offenders being referred for treatment, a leading charity has warned.
One in Four, which counsels victims and attempts to treat perpetrators, said 18 to 25-year-olds make up a quarter of all abusers on its programmes.
Executive director Maeve Lewis revealed many of the young men experts are treating began offending as adolescents by downloading child pornography from the internet.
One in Four launches its annual report today which shows it provided treatment to 30 sex offenders in 2013, working closely with the Child and Family Agency and the gardai.
"During the past year the number of young men aged 18 to 25 years who have been referred to One in Four has increased and now comprises almost a quarter of all offenders on our treatment programme," Ms Lewis said.
"Many of these young men began offending as adolescents by downloading internet images of children being abused and then moved on to sexually harming children themselves.
"This poses serious questions for us as a digital age society in how we support young people to develop healthy notions of sex based on consensual sexual intimacy."
One in Four said 2013 saw a change in the profile of survivors of child sexual abuse who sought psychotherapy treatment.
Some 115 people attended individual and group therapy and the charity said it assisted 43 families. Some 633 people were supported by the charity's advocacy officers.
Most survivors seen last year are victims of abusers in their family and neighbourhood, the charity said, rather than being victims of paedophile priests in the Catholic Church as had been the case in previous years.
Ms Lewis said this more accurately reflects the reality in Ireland.
"People who have been sexually abused in their family have very complex needs," she said.
"They need support in dealing with the impact of the abuse in their adult lives, but their families also need support in coming to terms with the truth of what happened and in understanding the intricate dynamics that allowed family members to be sexually abused. Our family support programme helps them to do this."
Elsewhere, One in Four said it made 51 child protection notifications to the Child and Family Agency and provided information to 405 professionals and survivors regarding the notification process.
Ms Lewis said: "Retrospective allegations are usually taken very seriously now, recognising that somebody who sexually abused a child 15 years ago may well be continuing to harm children in the present."
One in Four noted that fewer than 15% of abuse survivors it dealt with made a complaint to the gardai and an even smaller number of cases proceeds to trial - 35 of the charity's clients in 2013.
"Our advocacy officers regularly witness our clients being humiliated and their characters maligned during cross-examination in a criminal trial," Ms Lewis said.
"With all due regard to the right of an accused person to a fair trial, we have created a criminal justice system that so terrifies victims of sexual crime that most prefer to remain silent rather than seek justice for the terrible harm they have endured.
"This creates a culture where serious crimes are committed with impunity, surely an intolerable situation in a modern democracy."